ESCNJ students make cat toys while learning life skills

Students at Pathways to Adult Living (PAL) are learning entrepreneurial skills and using their new-found talents to launch a cat toy business. As part of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey, the students showcased their toys at Sayreville's Centennial Day in October, pictured.PHOTO COURTESY OF ESCNJ
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Students at Pathways to Adult Living (PAL) are learning entrepreneurial skills and using their new-found talents to launch a cat toy business. As part of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey, the students showcased their toys at Sayreville's Centennial Day in October, pictured.PHOTO COURTESY OF ESCNJ

Students at Pathways to Adult Living (PAL) are learning entrepreneurial skills and using their new-found talents to launch a cat toy business.

As part of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ), the PAL program is designed to ensure a successful transition to independent living for students 18-21 with disabilities. A key part of the curriculum is the school’s recently-launched Etsy shop, known across the Internet as PAL Treats.

Students complete the 12 individual tasks to create the plush mouse cat toys, which they then package at the ESCNJ storefront facility in Sayreville, according to information provided by ESCNJ.

There are lots of skills involved with being small business entrepreneurs, from budgeting, to manufacturing to shipping.

“There are so many positive aspects to PAL Treats; this endeavor focuses on both business and social components for our students,” Marci Rubin, PAL teacher, said in the statement. “The students are involved in each and every part of the operation, making it an invaluable experience for them.”

The program’s success has been made possible through a partnership with Rutgers Enactus, a program that connects college leaders to local organizations to improve the greater community. Rutgers students worked with PAL administration to create a budget and system for tracking orders, along with setting up the Etsy account.

“Rutgers Enactus students have been tremendous in helping us with the business side of this project,” Raissa Prus, supervisor of Community-Based Instruction at ESCNJ, said in the statement. “It’s wonderful to see our students take the time to hand-craft these adorable toys while learning new skills.”

Prior to the pandemic, the program was also making freshly-baked dog biscuits, an enterprise that PAL hopes to bring back in the future, based on customer demand.

Recently, students sold more than 50 cat toys at the Sayreville Centennial Day in October.

The toys can also be purchased at www.etsy.com/shop/PALSTreats. Or, call 732-339-9250 or email contactpaltreats@gmail.com.

The program is even offering local delivery.

“The PAL program has done a phenomenal job finding new and innovative ways to engage and upskill our students,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Finkelstein said in the statement. “Cat toys, may I add, make great stocking stuffers as part of your holiday shopping.”